Do you know an aspiring artist between the ages of 7 and 14 years old who would love to have their artwork featured in a published ebook? If so, this message is for you! I am putting together an upcoming ebook containing artistic advice, inspiration and creative tips for kids and I want YOUR young artist to be involved! All you have to do is submit a picture of your little artist’s favorite masterpiece, along with a quote from your child about art. The quote from your child can say anything as long as it is related to art or creativity. Here are a few suggestions for things your child might include in their quote:
- Advice for other young artists
- A personal story about art and how it has affected your life
- Information about your favorite art/artists
- Why you love art
- How you come up with creative ideas
Once you have your child’s artwork and quote, email them to me at Shojobeatgirl@live.com with ”Kid Art Entry” in the subject line . Please include your child’s name as you want it to appear in the ebook and your child’s age. I hope to use all of the artwork I receive, but if I receive an enormous amount of entries I may have to choose to feature only some of the young artists in the ebook. I will email back all of the young artists who are selected to be included in the book to let them know. I will also email all of the featured artists when the ebook is published so they can check it out and share it with their family and friends! Please submit all entries on or before June 20, 2013. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!
Have you ever felt like the odds are always against you? Like you overcome one hurdle, just to have several more obstacles thrown in your path? That is how I’m feeling tonight. I know that we all have our mountains to climb and that life is full of ups and downs for everyone. But, what do you do when that mountain before you multiplies and becomes an entire range before your very eyes? Do you give up? Walk away? Or do you press on and start climbing anyway?
I guess you could say that right now I am at the base of a growing mountain range, trying to figure out if it is worth the effort to keep going or if I should just say “to heck with it all”, go home and become a hermit. I was pretty resilient back when there were just a few issues to overcome in my life (sensory issues, social problems, obsessive interests and the other stuff we high-functioning autistics deal with on a daily basis). I’ve always been stubborn and determined to show that I could do anything I set my mind to. Naysayers didn’t hold me back, they just made me determined to prove them wrong. However, it seems that the older I get, the more there is to overcome and frankly, it makes me tired and want to give up sometimes. My Asperger’s traits that I have had since birth are compounded by anxiety and depression (brought on partly from genetics and partly from a lifetime of feeling rejected and “weird” by people who either didn’t understand or didn’t care to understand my differences).
I also deal with a lot of confusion about my place in the world. I know I am intelligent and talented in some areas, but I am often at a loss as to how to turn those qualities into practical, useful occupations. If I really did what I wanted to, I would sit and read all day, write down my random thoughts and feelings, doodle, put puzzles together, color pictures, dance and play with kids. I’ve had people suggest teaching and even tried it in the past, however, I don’t really want to be the adult watching the kids or telling them what to do. Instead, I want to play with them as equals, which is really kind of downright strange at my age, but apparently a somewhat common trait among Aspies (many of us hate being in charge of anyone else, we just want to be independent to do our own thing).
Of course, to top it all off, there are medical issues. I don’t want to go into it all because I would probably bore you and sound like I’m whining, but between my autoimmune problems, chronic infections and chronic inflammatory conditions, sometimes life is pretty painful. Add that to my physical hypersensitivity and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s no wonder that sometimes it is a struggle to even get out of bed.
I know that people always say that God won’t give you more than you can handle and in theory that sounds great…but sometimes I feel like I am just being buried alive by the weight of this world and my own internal struggles. I know that I will keep forcing myself to go on and keep trying to climb that next mountain, even if I fall a million times, because that is the kind of stubborn person I am. But, honestly, the enthusiasm isn’t always there and life sometimes feels like drudgery. I just hope that someday I can look back and see that I actually got somewhere, because some days it feels like I’m losing ground instead of gaining it.
I am obsessed with the idea of creativity. Visual arts, dance, poetry, music, drama…I love it all. Creativity is magic to me. It is the divine spark of life, the one thing that makes us most like God. It can be scary because there are no absolutes in creation - no right or wrong – just expression and opinion. Although frightening, the lack of concrete rules brings freedom. I feel most like myself when I am creating, but it is hard to get to that spot because I have to wade through all my self-doubts and perfectionistic worries to get there.
Sometimes I wish I could just shut my brain down long enough to jump straight into that magical, mystical creative flow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I have to fight my way through the mental blocks that I have created. I have to tear the walls down if I want to reach that sweet spot on the other side. I don’t always succeed, but when I do, I finally find that peace with myself that I always seem to be searching for. It makes me think that maybe the bliss of finding and entering my creative center is actually a reward for having the guts and determination to press on through my own internal resistance. Or maybe I am just a head case. Either way, I will keep trying to find my way back to that paradise where anything is possible.
Recently, my husband and I went to a special class about street drug use among youth. The only reason we really went was to earn some of our foster parent educational credit hours, but I must say that the class turned out to be eye-opening and even frightening on many levels. I thought I already knew the basics about street drug use…but apparently there is ALOT I still had to learn.
Following are a few of the facts and statistics that were shared during the class that surprised or even shocked me. Read them over for yourself and decide if we as a country should be worried…
- Of all young people who die from overdosing on drugs, 98% started with marijuana. (Guess that kind of ruins our society’s whole “marijuana is harmless” belief).
- Studies show that the risk of a person having a heart attack in the first hour after smoking marijuana is 4 times more likely than their normal risk.
- On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the hardest to get and 10 being the easiest to get, getting crack cocaine in this area of Ohio is an 8 for a minor. (Although obviously this statistic would vary depending on where you live and other factors, it scares me that it is so easy for our youth to get hold of cocaine).
- Ketamine, known on the streets as “Special K” is actually a tranquilizer for large animals. For this reason, many veterinary clinics and other animal handlers often become victims of theft and other crimes due to addicts pursuing their drug.
- OxyContin, Morphine, Vicodin and Codeine are in the same family of drugs as Heroin. (No wonder these pain killers are so addictive)!
- Heroin users often start out by abusing prescription drugs.
- Approximately 1 in 6 meth labs EXPLODE! This is truly terrifying! And these are not small explosions!
- People who abuse methamphetamines have less than a 5% chance of ever fully recovering.
- The average age for someone who inhales chemicals to get high is 9-13. (If that is the average age, many kids must do it at even younger ages. We obviously need early intervention here.)
So did those facts worry you at least a little bit? They should. If you don’t already talk to your kids about the dangers of drug use of all kinds, please start talking. And always keep an eye out. Don’t be the parent that is in denial and doesn’t see a problem right before their eyes until it is too late.
I am very proud to announce the release of a book that has been in the works for quite awhile now. This project wasn’t just another story I wanted to share, this was a very personal, intense book for me to write in many ways. As a foster parent who has undergone much heartache and frustration navigating the foster care system, I wanted to share a bit of that experience with others. However, I also wanted to give a voice to all the many kids who seem to fly under the radar and get “lost in the system”.
To achieve both ends, I divided the book into two sections. The first half of the book is written from the point of view of kids in the system. I did use a few of my own experiences with my own foster kids in this section, but also interviewed many current and former foster youth which really helped to open my eyes to the way foster kids really feel. Of course, since some of the questions I asked were rather deep, I interviewed kids that were at least nine years old, which I’m sure influenced some of the content. My husband and I have always fostered preteens or teens as well, so you may want to keep that in mind when reading this book. My heart really does ache for the older kids in the system because they are the ones that usually fall through the cracks and sit in the system for years or until adulthood. Even if they do get put up for adoption, it can be very hard to find adoptive families for older kids.
The second section of the book is told from the point of view of foster parents. In this section I did use more of my own experiences, but also included stories and feelings from other foster parents I talked to. I openly tackled subjects such as mental diagnoses, attachment problems, prejudice, abusive foster parents, loss and the reason behind why I personally chose to be a foster parent. In many ways I laid my own soul bare for this project, but I felt that the subject matter deserved no less. The book itself is written in an autobiographical prose/free verse poetry form that is very easy to read and understand, but gets quickly to the heart of the matter and the deep emotions that the foster care system often evokes.
My hope for this book is that it will inspire, encourage and comfort foster kids and foster parents in some way. I hope that they will read this book and feel like saying “Yes! Someone finally gets it!”. I also hope that those not directly involved in the foster care system will read the book so that their eyes can be opened to the real challenges and injustices present. Only by bringing attention to the problems of the foster care system can we hope to make some positive changes. As I said in the dedication of the book, “Here’s to hoping that someday EVERY foster child can find a happy ending, no matter their age or circumstances.”
To read this ebook for yourself or find out more about it, please visit the book’s Amazon page. Right now ”From Both Sides” can be purchased for the Kindle for only $2.99.
Not too long ago, after a lengthy round of psychological testing and lots of other mind-probing activities, my psychologist broke the news to me that I do officially have autism. The autism I have is a high-functioning type called Asperger’s (or at least it used to be called that, now they are starting to just refer to it as “high-functioning autism”). So why did I even go at my age (30 years old) to be tested? Because of some of the issues I was having, especially with sensory problems and anxiety.
I have always had sensory problems. In fact, I still have to cut all of the tags out of my clothes, can’t stand the feel of many clothing materials against my skin, refuse to eat many foods due to texture and scent issues, cover my ears when I am around certain high-pitched noises and sometimes have mini panic attacks in large crowds due to the overwhelming amount of noise and movement around me. I have learned to control myself so that most people don’t notice in public, but believe me, if you lived with me, you would think I was crazy sometimes.
As for the anxiety, I always knew I had generalized anxiety and social anxiety, especially around “small talk” situations. I am fine talking at length about things that interest me and that I know a lot about. In fact, I have learned to limit how much I talk about my “obsessions” because it starts to bore others after a while. In the past, I just survived the anxiety by avoiding most social situations, but now that I am finally living my dream as an award-winning author, the last thing I want to do is give up that dream because I am afraid of discussing the weather with strangers.
So anyhow, ever since I have been diagnosed, some people seem to act like it is some big, shameful secret I should hide. Heck no. I am proud to be who I am, eccentricities and all. I do not consider myself “disabled”. At only 30, I am following my passion, have a wonderful marriage (to a very understanding husband) and have the true love and devotion of those closest to me. That is another thing, many people seem to thing being autistic means “unable to love”. Not at all. Sure, we can be harder to get to know and seem out of it and self-absorbed at times, but once we let you in and get close to you, we can be some of the most loyal people around.
So, yeah, we might rock back and forth or hum when we get nervous or get lost every time we venture more than five miles from home. We may stare off into space all the time or freak out over stuff you don’t understand. We might have weird eating habits and lots of OCD tendencies that raise eyebrows. We may collect nerdy stuff and want lots of alone time to recharge. But we have very good hearts underneath it all. And remember, just like so-called “normal people”, no two autistic people are exactly alike. Get to know us as individuals. If you take the time to do that, I truly believe that you won’t be disappointed.
Lately things have been extremely stressful for me. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that I just feel overwhelmed and discouraged by circumstances that are somewhat out of my control, but still manage to weigh heavily on my heart and mind. I think I would have gone crazy recently if it weren’t for my spiritual connections and the support and encouragement of those who love me. Although I am not happy to be facing difficult times and circumstances, I am glad to have the reality check that helps me get back to the basics of what is really important in this life.
So now that I am (hopefully) starting to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, I would like to share the actual practices and actions that have helped me through, in the hopes that others going through the valley might find comfort and encouragement for their own battles. So here it is, a short list of lifesavers I have discovered:
- Meditation and prayer – this is probably the one single thing that has helped me the most. I practice a combination of mindfulness and relaxation meditation, combined with prayer based on the particular Christian tradition I follow. I do breathing exercises, practice yoga, meditate to soothing music, read inspirational literature, journal and just spend time talking to God. Regardless of whether you are religious or not, there are plenty of relaxation and spiritual practices that may help you to find that inner peace and stability you need during rough times. Don’t be afraid to go within or look up for help.
- Loved ones – this includes my husband, my family, my close friends, my pets and even Facebook friends that I have never met in person, but who have shown me great kindness and compassion throughout my troubles. One ironic thing I have found is that sometimes those who don’t even really know us show more compassion and love during hard times than some of the folks who we see on a regular basis. During times like this you find out that some people will always be there for you and other people are merely acquaintances. Although it may hurt, it is good to know who will be there when the chips are down.
- Take care of your health – although sad and desperate times may tempt you to neglect your health, this will only make things much, much worse. Although I have had days recently where I was guilty of indulging in chocolate and caffeine fests, I find that I feel much, much better when I drag myself out to get exercise and eat what I know is good for my body. Make sure you take time to rest and sleep as well. Sometimes when all seems lost, laying down and taking a nap helps you recharge and “reset” your mind into a more positive direction.
- Take time to play – this can be hard when you are facing tragedy and constant stressors, but it is important to try to keep life fun as much as you can. So do what brings you pleasure, even if you can only devote a few minutes a day. Read, write, draw, paint, do puzzles, dance around to your favorite music, watch cartoons, cook, shop, spend time with nature….whatever your bliss is, find time for it.
Well, that is the majority of what has worked for me. I can’t promise that what worked for me will do wonders for you too, but maybe it will if you give it a chance. It certainly can’t hurt to try.